Later On

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Archive for the ‘Terrorism’ Category

The Reorientations of Edward Said

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In the New Yorker Pankaj Mishra has a very interesting profile of Edward Said in the context of a new biography. The entire piece is worth reading. It begins:

“Professor of Terror” was the headline on the cover of the August, 1989, issue of Commentary. Inside, an article described Edward Said, then a professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, as a mouthpiece for Palestinian terrorists and a confidant of Yasir Arafat. “Eduardo Said” was how he was referred to in the F.B.I.’s two-hundred-and-thirty-eight-page file on him—perhaps on the assumption that a terrorist was likely to have a Latin name. V. S. Naipaul willfully mispronounced “Said” to rhyme with “head,” and asserted that he was “an Egyptian who got lost in the world.” Said, an Arab Christian who was frequently taken to be Muslim, recognized the great risks of being misidentified and misunderstood. In “Orientalism” (1978), the book that made him famous, he set out to answer the question of, as he wrote in the introduction, “what one really is.” The question was pressing for a man who was, simultaneously, a literary theorist, a classical pianist, a music critic, arguably New York’s most famous public intellectual after Hannah Arendt and Susan Sontag, and America’s most prominent advocate for Palestinian rights.

Multiple and clashing selves were Said’s inheritance from the moment of his birth, in 1935, in West Jerusalem, where a midwife chanted over him in both Arabic and Hebrew. The family was Episcopalian and wealthy, and his father, who had spent years in America and prided himself on having light skin, named him after the Prince of Wales. Said always loathed his name, especially when shortened to Ed. Sent as a teen-ager to an American boarding school, Said found the experience “shattering and disorienting.” Trained at Princeton and Harvard as a literary scholar in a Euro-American humanist tradition, he became an enthusiast of French theory, a partisan of Michel Foucault. In “Orientalism,” published two decades into a conventional academic career, Said unexpectedly described himself as an “Oriental subject” and implicated almost the entire Western canon, from Dante to Marx, in the systematic degradation of the Orient.

“Orientalism” proved to be perhaps the most influential scholarly book of the late twentieth century; its arguments helped expand the fields of anti-colonial and post-colonial studies. Said, however, evidently came to feel that “theory” was “dangerous” to students, and derided the “jaw-shattering jargonistic postmodernisms” of scholars like Jacques Derrida, whom he considered “a dandy fooling around.” Toward the end of his life, the alleged professor of terror collaborated with the conductor Daniel Barenboim to set up an orchestra of Arab and Israeli musicians, angering many Palestinians, including members of Said’s family, who supported a campaign of boycott and sanctions against Israel. While his handsome face appeared on the T-shirts and posters of left-wing street protesters worldwide, Said maintained a taste for Rolex watches, Burberry suits, and Jermyn Street shoes right up to his death, from leukemia, in 2003.

“To be a Levantine is to live in two or more worlds at once without belonging to either,” Said once wrote, quoting the historian Albert Hourani. “It reveals itself in lostness, pretentiousness, cynicism and despair.” His melancholy memoir of loss and deracination, “Out of Place” (1999), invited future biographers to probe the connection between their subject’s cerebral and emotional lives. Timothy Brennan, a friend and graduate student of Said’s, now warily picks up the gauntlet, in an authorized biography, “Places of Mind” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Scanting Said’s private life, including his marriages and other romantic liaisons, Brennan concerns himself with tracing an intellectual and political trajectory. One of the half-concealed revelations in the book is how close Said came, with his Levantine wealth and Ivy League education, to being a somewhat refined playboy, chasing women around the Eastern Seaboard in his Alfa Romeo. In Jerusalem, Said went to St. George’s, a boys’ school for the region’s ruling castes. In Cairo—where his family moved in 1947, shortly before Jewish militias occupied West Jerusalem—he attended the British-run Victoria College. There he was chiefly known for his mediocre marks and insubordinate ways; his classmates included the future King Hussein of Jordan and the actor Omar Sharif.

Cairo was then the principal metropolis of a rapidly decolonizing and politically assertive Arab world. The creation of the state of Israel—following a U.N. resolution, on Palestinian land—and the refugee crisis and wars that ensued were on everyone’s mind. Yet Said inhabited a bubble of affluent cosmopolitans, speaking English and French better than Arabic, and attending the local opera. When he was six years old, he started playing the family piano, a Blüthner baby grand from Leipzig, and he later received private lessons from Ignace Tiegerman, a Polish Jew famous for his interpretations of Brahms and Chopin. Said’s father, who ran a successful office-supply business, was socially ambitious, and his time in America had given him a lasting admiration for the West. At one point, he considered moving his entire family to the United States. Instead, in 1951, he contented himself with dispatching his son to Northfield Mount Hermon School, in rural Massachusetts.

Brennan shows how much Said initially was, as he once confessed, a “creature of an American and even a kind of upper-class wasp education,” distanced from the “uniquely punishing destiny” of an Arab Palestinian in the West. Glenn Gould recitals in Boston appear to have registered more with him than the earthquakes of the post-colonial world, such as the Great Leap Forward or the anti-French insurgency in Algeria. The Egyptian Revolution erupted soon after Said left for the U.S., and a mob of protesters burned down his father’s stationery shop. Within a decade, the family had moved to Lebanon. Yet these events seem to have had less influence on Said than the political currents of his new country did. Brennan writes, “Entering the United States at the height of the Cold War would color Said’s feelings about the country for the rest of his life.” Alfred Kazin, writing in his journals in 1955, already worried that intellectuals had found in America a new “orthodoxy”—the idea of the country as “world-spirit and world hope.” This consensus was bolstered by a professionalization of intellectual life. Jobs in universities, media, publishing, and think tanks offered former bohemians and penurious toilers money and social status. Said began his career at precisely this moment, when many upwardly mobile American intellectuals became, in his later, unforgiving analysis, “champions of the strong.”

Nonetheless, his own early impulse, born of an immigrant’s insecurity, was, as he later put it, to make himself over “into something the system required.” His earliest intellectual mentors were such iconic figures of American literary culture as R. P. Blackmur and Lionel Trilling. He wrote a prize-winning dissertation on Conrad; he read Sartre and Lukács. In his early writings, he faithfully absorbed all the trends then dominant in English departments, from existentialism to structuralism. Devoted to Chopin and Schumann, he seems to have been as indifferent to blues and jazz as he was to Arabic music. He adored Hollywood movies, but there is no evidence that, in this period, he engaged with the work of James Baldwin or Ralph Ellison, or had much interest in the civil-rights movement. When students protesting the war in Vietnam disrupted a class of his, he called campus security.

Brennan detects a hint of what was to come in a remark of Said’s about the dual selves of Conrad: one “the waiting and willing polite transcriber who wished to please, the other an uncooperative demon.” Much impotent anger seems to have long simmered in Said as he witnessed “the web of racism, cultural stereotypes, political imperialism, dehumanizing ideology holding in the Arab or the Muslim.” In a conversation filmed for Britain’s Channel 4, Said claimed that many of his cultural heroes, such as Isaiah Berlin and Reinhold Niebuhr, were prejudiced against Arabs. “All I could do,” he said, “was note it.” He watched aghast, too, the critical acclaim for “The Arab Mind,” a 1973 book by the Hungarian Jewish academic Raphael Patai, which described Arabs as a fundamentally unstable people.

It’s not hard to see how Said, upholding the “great books” courses at Columbia, would have come to feel intensely the frustrations that writers and intellectuals from countries subjugated by Europe and America had long experienced: so many of the canonical figures of Western liberalism and democracy, from John Stuart Mill to Winston Churchill, were contemptuous of nonwhite peoples. Among aspiring intellectuals who came to the U.S. and Europe from Asia, Africa, and Latin America, a sense of bitterness ran especially deep. Having struggled to emulate the cultural élite of the West by acquiring a knowledge of its literature and philosophy, they realized that their role models remained largely ignorant of the worlds they had come from. Moreover, the steep price of that ignorance was paid, often in blood, by the people back home.

It was the Six-Day War, in 1967, and the exultant American media coverage of Israel’s crushing victory over Arab countries, that killed Said’s desire to please his white mentors. He began reaching

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 April 2021 at 10:03 am

13 investigations, no court-martials: Here’s how the US Navy and Marine Corps quietly discharged white supremacists

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Will Carless reports in USA Today:

For decades, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps have quietly kicked out some of the worst white supremacists in their ranks, offering them administrative discharges that leave no public record of their hateful activity, a USA TODAY review of Navy documents found.

The documents, obtained via a public-records request by the open-government advocacy group American Oversight, detail 13 major investigations into white supremacist activity in the Navy and Marine Corps over more than 20 years. They show a pattern in which military leaders chose to deal with personnel involved in extremism by dismissing them in ways that would not attract public attention.

Take what happened to Edward Fix and Jacob Laskey.

In the early hours of Dec. 10, 2000, three white men left a neo-Nazi rally and headed to downtown Jacksonville, Florida. They were looking for a Black person to beat up, according to the Navy records.

On Main Street, they found John Joseph Newsome, 44. They beat him severely with their fists, boots and a broken bottle, all the while shouting “Kill the n—–,” according to the documents.

Then they went looking for another victim.

The trio was soon arrested and charged with aggravated battery causing great bodily harm and committing a hate crime. All three pleaded guilty to felonies and were sentenced to varying terms in the Duval County jail.

But two of the men faced another investigation. Fix and Laskey were enlisted members of the United States Navy, serving at nearby bases.

Yet the two sailors never faced military charges, which likely would have resulted in them being dishonorably discharged if they had been found guilty.

Instead, the Navy dismissed them via administrative discharges. Their only punishment from the Navy for almost beating a man to death in a racially-motivated hate crime was to lose their jobs, documents show.

Fix and Laskey entered civilian life with barely a blot on their military record. Fix fared even better: Because he had cooperated with civilian prosecutors, the felony conviction never went on his record.

13 investigations into white supremacy. No court-martials.

The Navy records describe investigations into allegations of white supremacist assault, theft, verbal abuse, threats and even gang crimes between 1997 and 2020.

One investigation involved members of a white supremacist gang called the “RRR”— an apparent nod to the KKK — who branded themselves with lighters and got in fights with nonwhite Marines.

In another case, a female sailor started one of the earliest online white supremacist message boards. She bragged about her top-secret security clearance while writing screeds about Hitler, Jews and Black people.

Not one of the 13 investigations resulted in a military trial, known as a court-martial, according to the documents. That’s the only way a member of the military can receive what’s called a “punitive discharge” such as a dishonorable or bad conduct discharge.

Instead, some of the personnel received small fines or pay cuts. Most of the troops who were let go received a general discharge under honorable conditions, the most mild administrative discharge.

Besides the 13 cases, records for another 10 have not been released because they are being reviewed, said a spokeswoman for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which investigates felony-level criminal activity.

Most of the cases in the documents were never written about in the media. The names of Navy personnel are redacted, along with other identifying details. USA TODAY identified a few through other sources, but most remain anonymous.

What most of the accused white supremacists went on to do after leaving the Navy is also unknown.

a’s most violent and notorious neo-Nazis. At the time of the beating, he already sported a chest tattoo of a swastika, according to the civilian prosecutor who handled his case.

Less than two years after the Navy let him go, Laskey was involved in an attack on a synagogue full of worshippers. He was convicted of throwing bricks etched with swastikas through the windows of the temple. After spending more than a decade in prison, he was released in 2018, only to quickly be charged with assaulting and stabbing another neo-Nazi.

He was released in 2020, sporting a mask of facial tattoos including the words “white power” inked across his jawbone.

Laskey could not be reached for comment. Fix, whose last known address was in Rochester, New York, didn’t respond to calls.

Navy officials said the documents viewed by USA TODAY represent only the most severe instances of white supremacy investigated in the ranks. Most incidents are dealt with internally rather than being formally investigated, according to military law experts and service members. That means there’s no paper trail.

The military doesn’t track how many people are removed for extremist activity, but there are signs that incidents of white supremacy are rising among troops, reflecting a surge in hate crimes among the general population.

More than a third of active-duty military personnel reported seeing white supremacist or ideologically driven racism while on duty, according to a 2019 survey by the Military Times. It’s higher for nonwhite members of the military. The 36% of respondents who reported seeing white supremacist or racist ideologies on display was up from 22% in 2018.

“As a country, we haven’t decided that white supremacy is something that we really want to acknowledge, let alone address in a major way,” said Sarah Vinson, a forensic psychiatrist and associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Morehouse School of Medicine.

If the military truly wants to ferret out white supremacy, she said, transparency and consequences are critical. “If you allow things to go unchecked, they don’t magically get better and go away — they escalate.” . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and it suggests some serious problems within the US military and the US itself, problems the US is trying to ignore.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 April 2021 at 1:35 pm

“I Needed a Job. He Asked If I Was Proposing Marriage.”

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The creepiness and moral turpitude of Donald Trump and his administration have far-reaching ripple effects. Deboarh Kopaken provides examples in the Atlantic:

I was 8 when Patty Hearst was kidnapped. For several years, I was afraid to sit in a well-lit room after sundown, because I was next on the kidnappers’ list, and they were lurking in my backyard. I was sure of this.

Was my fear justified? Of course not. Was it real? One hundred percent yes.

Bill Clinton pardoned Hearst on his last day in office. When I heard the news, I cheered. The woman had been kidnapped at 19, raped, and held in a dark closet for 57 days, after which, suffering from Stockholm syndrome, she robbed a bank with her captors. Pardoning her seemed not only fair, but just.

Exactly 20 years later, on his last day in office, Donald Trump pardoned Ken Kurson. When I read the news, I cursed. This pardon was neither fair nor just.

Kurson was the editor of the Observer when it was owned by his friend Jared Kushner. Last fall, Kurson was arrested and charged with cyberstalking three people and harassing two others. According to the federal complaint, Kurson posted multiple malicious professional reviews of a former friend he spuriously blamed for the end of his marriage. He used an alias to send the friend’s colleagues and others threatening emails accusing her of sleeping with her boss, then stalked her at her workplace until her employers were forced to hire a security firm to protect her. His lawyer argued in a statement that the charges were overblown, and he was pardoned before the case went to trial.

After Kurson’s arrest, I kept scanning the news, hoping that Trump would be too busy being a sore loser and inciting insurrection to pardon Kurson. I was wrong. Which meant I would now spend the rest of my life looking over my shoulder.

From November 2014 to late 2016, Ken Kurson sexually harassed me. I wrote about the degrading experience for this magazine in 2018. I composed the essay in the form of a tongue-in-cheek listicle (“How to Lose Your Job From Sexual Harassment in 33 Easy Steps”), because all too often, as we keep learning (and learning and learning), sexual harassment is not just one event or off-color comment, nor is it just the suggestive emails that followed: “In another life, I’d be Mr. Copaken”; “I love your sloppy seconds”; “Are you proposing marriage to me?” It’s a systematic abuse of power that can deny its victims work, money, and health insurance.

Kurson invited me to lunch after one of my stories for another publication went viral, and said he had a full-time job for me with benefits. I told my current boss I was quitting, only for Kurson to say that it was never an actual job offer, and that he couldn’t match my salary. But he dangled the possibility of a full-time position if I kept freelancing for him, while sending me wildly inappropriate emails about his crumbling marriage. I worried that he might be vengeful. “I consider this the Observer’s story,” he once wrote about one of my article pitches, “and you know I come from a grudge-holding desert people.”

I thought he was joking, but after that story was published in The New York Times, he stopped answering my emails for more than a month. Later, when I asked about a late payment for an article, he replied to say the money had finally been deposited in my account, adding, “Sorry you’re broke… Are you in love w anyone?”

(When The Atlantic asked Kurson for comment, he denied that there had been a job offer. About the emails, he said, “All of us have used language in the past that we now wish had been more artful,” adding, “I try my best to treat everyone I meet with kindness and respect.”)

At the time, I was a solo mother of three––two of them in college. With crushing tuition bills, an expensive cascade of illnesses requiring surgeries, and an empty bank account, I’d had to move to cheaper digs and nab the first full-time job with benefits I could find, as a flack for the pharmaceutical industry. This, along with ageism and a shrinking media industry, has derailed my journalism career to this day.

Following the publication of my story in The Atlantic in 2018, I was not surprised to be inundated with similar tales of woe. I was surprised by the number of tales featuring the same antagonist. I created a spreadsheet to organize them. Here are some excerpts:

“Ken was a creep to me, condescending as well … ”

“Your frightening experience with him gave me flashbacks … The way he spoke to me haunts me to this day … Drag the ogre into the daylight.”

“I woke up to your article about Ken Kurson. I had an insane, if not criminal, experience with him that I’d love to talk to you about.”

This last one was chilling. It came from a woman who knew one of the people Kurson was later charged with cyberstalking, and said she had received threatening emails from Kurson herself. When I called her, she recounted both stories of harassment. The behavior she described did indeed sound criminal. And vindictive. I shared it with Jesse Drucker, an investigative journalist at the Times. “Jesse, I need help,” I said. “I want to help this woman, but I feel like I’m out of my league.”

I forwarded him my spreadsheet, with the obvious caveat not to share it further. Then, just as Drucker started looking into each allegation, Trump nominated Kurson to the board of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Because of course this happened.

Drucker’s story, “The Trump Administration Considers an Old Friend: Ken Kurson,” appeared on May 11. “Concerning Ms. Copaken’s account, Mr. Kurson said, ‘I categorically deny any claim of inappropriate behavior.’”

In response to his denial, I posted a Twitter thread presenting some of the written evidence, email by creepy email.

At the end of the thread, I wrote the following: . . .

Continue reading. There’s more — and the FBI gets involved.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 April 2021 at 5:36 pm

Puddles: Tears, butterflies, and the shootings in Atlanta

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Sabrina Imbler writes in Sierra, the magazine of the Sierra Club:

This past week, I have been trying to figure out if a puddle is a body of water.

According to Wikipedia, a body of water is defined as a significant accumulation of water, such as an ocean, a sea, or a lake. When geographers map out bodies of water, they include oceans and lakes, perhaps even ponds, but not puddles. A puddle is defined by a small accumulation of water on a surface. I have to wonder, is “small” significant? What about “very small”? How much water must you hold to be considered a body of water?

As a mixed Asian American person, I have spent a lifetime trying to understand how small something like an experience can be and still be considered significant. How small I can be and still be significant.

I have been thinking about puddles because they are the only bodies of water I see nowadays. In Brooklyn, where I live, puddles accumulate by sidewalks and surround intersections, meaning you have to look down to know where to step. Sometimes, after rainfall but before the murk and trash sets in, you can see a glimmer of yourself, or how you are seen.

Last spring, amid a first wave of lockdowns—after my mom sent me an email cautioning me, an Asian asthmatic, not to cough in public—a man spit at me, maybe. I wasn’t sure. He was standing on a corner and I had just walked past him on the otherwise empty street. His spit landed on my shoe, and I faltered for a second but kept walking. When I looked back, I saw him watching me. When he didn’t say anything, I figured I was assuming too much, that I had been the one to intrude in his pre-planned spitting, that it was ingloriously vain of me to assume that he meant to spit on me. A few blocks away, surrounded by brownstones and shuttered shops—no storefront glass in sight—I looked at myself in a puddle as if this could answer my question. I saw a face mask and a beanie and then the only part of my face that was exposed: my eyes. I returned from my destination—a Japanese restaurant converted into a grocery store—and passed by a mailbox with a directive in Sharpie: Go back to China! As I walked home, I wondered, was this significant?

I have been thinking about puddles this past week because I have been crying, in fits and bursts, leaking enough tears and mucus that I could form a very small, probably insignificant, puddle. I did not cry when I learned about the shooting at the spas in Atlanta—where a white man shot eight people, six of whom were Asian women—but I cried later that night, while I was brushing my teeth. I am not a woman, but I am reminded constantly by strangers that I am seen as a woman, objectified as an Asian woman. I thought about the images I’d seen in past months of Asian elders shovedassaulted, and slashed, many of whom lived in towns near where my own grandparents live. My grandpa, a 98-year-old man who wears flat caps and speaks mostly in Mandarin these days, walks around his neighborhood for an hour each day. I wondered, should I ask him to stop?

I do not mean to equate my Asian American experience with the experience of the women killed in Atlanta. Asian massage workers face violence, racism, and sexism every day, Elene Lam, the executive director of Butterfly, a support network for Asian and migrant sex workers in Toronto, told The Cut. Their work is stigmatized, precarious, criminalized, and overpoliced, regardless of whether they are sex workers. They may lack legal protections or be excluded from other jobs due to their immigration status or language barriers. “Those women were assumed to be sex workers & therefore not worthy of safety,” tweeted the writer and social worker Kai Cheng Thom in a thread about the shootings. I felt frustrated at the futility of my tears; they were not helping the victims or the families left to grieve the losses of their daughters, mothers, grandmothers.

When I was in high school, I learned that puddles, bereft of flow, could become vectors of disease. Standing water is dangerous because it is a breeding ground for mosquitoes that spread diseases such as malaria and dengue. I did not learn until much later that when Chinese women began immigrating to California in the 19th century, white health professionals and legislators cast these women as a threat to American morality and a contagion to public health. The president of the American Medical Association warned of a (completely fictitious) sexually transmitted disease that was only carried by Chinese women, Mari Uyehara writes in The Nation. In 1875, the US passed the Page Act, which effectively banned Chinese women from immigrating.

Puddles may not be significant to geographers, but they are significant to wildlife, particularly butterflies. Adult butterflies can only consume liquids, which they imbibe through their spiraling proboscises. They subsist almost entirely on a diet of leaves and nectar, foods rich in sugar but devoid of sodium. Butterflies must seek out sodium elsewhere in liquid form. So they resort to what’s known as puddling, seeking out minerals in water and damp substrates. Shallow puddles are safer havens for such small creatures than the surging currents of rivers or depths of a pond. Butterflies in Sulawesi, . . .

Continue reading. The conclusion is powerful.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 March 2021 at 11:35 am

Trump Complains Government Is ‘Persecuting’ Capitol Rioters

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The situation in the US is actively getting more dangerous because Donald Trump is leading and fomenting an already-violent insurrection against the government — against the administration, really, to force someone — Congress, Georgia Governor, Mitch McConnell, Mike Pence… anyone — to provide an election “count” sufficient to put Trump back in the White House. And he’s not going to shut up until he is in the White House. He’ll butt into every situation he can. As we’ve seen, he has zero sense of shame and zero decorum.

Jonathan Chait writes in New York:

One of the most dangerous, long-lasting changes effected by Donald Trump is the rightward extension of the Republican coalition. A wide array of far-right militias and cults was either created or inspired to join the Republican Party by Trump’s racist, paranoid, and authoritarian rhetoric. Now those groups are the subject of regular apologias in party-aligned media.

The new reality was driven home in Trump’s interview with Laura Ingraham Thursday night. At one point, the Fox News host, whose “interview” was more like an exchange of talking points, brought up a new report that the Homeland Security Department will be giving more attention to right-wing domestic extremism. “The idea is to identify people who may, through their social-media behavior, be prone to influence by toxic messaging spread by foreign governments, terrorists, and domestic extremists,” Ingraham noted. “Mr. President, their DHS is going after people who may be your supporters.”

It is worth pausing for a moment to record that Ingraham’s reaction to a description of people “prone to influence by toxic messaging spread by foreign governments, terrorists, and domestic extremists” is hey, they’re talking about us!

Trump, taking the cue, denounced federal authorities for charging his supporters with crimes. “They go after that, I guess you’d call them leaning toward the right … those people, they’re arresting them by the dozens,” he complained.

Ingraham did not follow up by asking who was being arrested by the dozens. But Trump’s answer became clear a few questions later. Ingraham prompted him with a safe question about the security fencing around the Capitol, a precaution even Democrats have deemed excessive long after the insurrection ended.

Rather than simply denounce the fencing, Trump launched into . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 March 2021 at 2:14 pm

Judgments of guilt, tailored to perpetrator

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And some say that the white shooter who killed multiple people was just “having a bad day.”

Written by LeisureGuy

24 March 2021 at 9:13 pm

Posted in Daily life, Terrorism

When lies come home to roost

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Heather Cox Richardson writes:

Last night, federal prosecutors filed a motion revealing that a leader of the paramilitary group the Oath Keepers claimed to be coordinating with the Proud Boys and another far-right group before the January 6 insurrection.

After former President Donald Trump tweeted that his supporters should travel to Washington, D.C., on January 6 for a rally that “will be wild!,” Kelly Meggs, a member of the Oath Keepers, wrote on Facebook: “He wants us to make it WILD that’s what he’s saying. He called us all to the Capitol and wants us to make it wild!!! Sir Yes Sir!!! Gentlemen we are heading to DC pack your s***!!”

In a series of messages, Meggs went on to make plans with another individual for an attack on the process of counting the electoral votes. On December 25, Meggs told his correspondent that “Trumps staying in, he’s Gonna use the emergency broadcast system on cell phones to broadcast to the American people. Then he will claim the insurrection act…. Then wait for the 6th when we are all in DC to insurrection.”

The Big Lie, pushed hard by Trump and his supporters, was that Trump had won the 2020 election and it had been stolen by the Democrats. Although this was entirely discredited in more than 60 lawsuits, the Big Lie inspired Trump supporters to rally to defend their president and, they thought, their country.

The former president not only inspired them to fight for him; he urged them to send money to defend his election in the courts. A story today by Allan Smith of NBC News shows that as soon as Trump began to ask for funds to bankroll election challenges, supporters who later charged the Capitol began to send him their money. Smith’s investigation found that those who have been charged in the Capitol riot increased their political donations to Trump by about 75% after the election.

In the 19 days after the election, Trump and the Republican National Committee took in more than $207 million, prompted mostly by their claims of election fraud. John Horgan, who runs the Violent Extremism Research Group at Georgia State University, told Smith that “Trump successfully convinced many of his followers that unless they acted, and acted fast, their very way of life was about to come to an end…. He presented a catastrophic scenario whereby if the election was — for him — lost, his followers would suffer as a result. He made action not just imperative, but urgent, convincing his followers that they needed to do everything they could now, rather than later, to prevent the ‘enemy’ from claiming victory.”

And yet, on Monday, Trump’s former lawyer, Sidney Powell, moved to dismiss the Dominion Voting Systems defamation lawsuit against her. Powell helped to craft the Big Lie, and won the president’s attention with her determination to combat the results of the election and restore Trump to the presidency. In January, Dominion sued Powell for $1.3 billion after her allegations that the company was part of an international Communist plot to steal the 2020 presidential election.

On Monday, Powell argued that “no reasonable person would conclude” that her statements about a scheme to rig the election “were truly statements of fact.” Eric Wilson, a Republican political technologist, explained away the Big Lie to NBC News’s Smith: “[T]here are a lot of dumb people in the world…. And a lot of them stormed the Capitol on January 6th.”

And yet, 147 Republicans—8 senators and 139 representatives—signed onto the Big Lie, voting to sustain objections to the counting of the electoral votes on January 6.

So the Republicans are left with increasing evidence that there was a concerted plan to attack the Capitol on January 6, fed by the former president, whose political campaign pocketed serious cash from his declarations that he had truly won the election and that all patriots would turn out to defend his reelection. Those claims were pressed by a lawyer who now claims that no reasonable person would believe she was telling the truth.

The Republicans tied themselves to this mess, and it is coming back to haunt them. President Biden’s poll numbers are high, with a Reuters/Ipsos poll released last Friday showing that 59% of adults approve of Biden’s overall performance. (Remember that Trump never broke 50%). They are happy with his response to the coronavirus pandemic and his handling of the economy.

Rather than trying to pass popular measures to make up the ground they have lost, Republicans are trying to suppress voting. By mid-February, in 43 states, Republicans had introduced 253 bills to restrict voting. Today, Republicans in Michigan introduced 39 more such bills. In at least 8 states, Republicans are trying to gain control over elections, taking power from nonpartisan election boards, secretaries of state, and governors. Had their systems been in place in 2020, Republicans could have overturned the will of the voters.

To stop these state laws, Democrats are trying to pass a sweeping federal voting rights bill, the For the People Act, which would protect voting, make it easier to vote, end gerrymandering, and get dark money out of politics. The bill has already passed the House, but Republicans in the Senate are fighting it with all they’ve got.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told them: “This . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 March 2021 at 9:06 pm

That right to bear arms — what does it mean, exactly, to “bear arms”?

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Heather Cox Richardson discusses some history regarding guns in the US:

Ten more people in Boulder, Colorado, died yesterday, shot by a man with a gun, just days after we lost 8 others in Atlanta, Georgia, shot by a man with a gun.

In 2017, after the murder of 58 people in Las Vegas, political personality Bill O’Reilly said that such mass casualties were “the price of freedom.”

But his is a very recent interpretation of guns and their meaning in America.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution is one simple sentence: “A well regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” There’s not a lot to go on about what the Framers meant, although in their day, to “bear arms” meant to be part of an organized militia.

As the Tennessee Supreme Court wrote in 1840, “A man in the pursuit of deer, elk, and buffaloes might carry his rifle every day for forty years, and yet it would never be said of him that he had borne arms; much less could it be said that a private citizen bears arms because he has a dirk or pistol concealed under his clothes, or a spear in a cane.”

The path to today’s insistence that the Second Amendment gives individuals a broad right to own guns comes from two places.

One is the establishment of the National Rifle Association in New York in 1871, in part to improve the marksmanship skills of American citizens who might be called on to fight in another war, and in part to promote in America the British sport of elite shooting, complete with hefty cash prizes in newly organized tournaments. Just a decade after the Civil War, veterans jumped at the chance to hone their former skills. Rifle clubs sprang up across the nation.

By the 1920s, rifle shooting was a popular American sport. “Riflemen” competed in the Olympics, in colleges and in local, state and national tournaments organized by the NRA. Being a good marksman was a source of pride, mentioned in public biographies, like being a good golfer. In 1925, when the secretary of the NRA apparently took money from ammunitions and arms manufacturers, the organization tossed him out and sued him.

NRA officers insisted on the right of citizens to own rifles and handguns, but worked hard to distinguish between law-abiding citizens who should have access to guns for hunting and target shooting and protection, and criminals and mentally ill people, who should not. In 1931, amid fears of bootlegger gangs, the NRA backed federal legislation to limit concealed weapons, prevent possession by criminals, the mentally ill and children, to require all dealers to be licensed, and to require background checks before delivery. It backed the 1934 National Firearms Act, and parts of the 1968 Gun Control Act, designed to stop what seemed to be America’s hurtle toward violence in that turbulent decade.

But in the mid-1970s, a faction in the NRA forced the organization away from sports and toward opposing “gun control.” It formed a political action committee (PAC) in 1975, and two years later elected an organization president who abandoned sporting culture and focused instead on “gun rights.”

This was the second thing that led us to where we are today: leaders of the NRA embraced the politics of Movement Conservatism, the political movement that rose to combat the business regulations and social welfare programs that both Democrats and Republicans embraced after World War Two. Movement Conservatives embraced the myth of the American cowboy as a white man standing against the “socialism” of the federal government as it sought to level the economic playing field between Black Americans and their white neighbors. Leaders like Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater personified the American cowboy, with his cowboy hat and opposition to government regulation, while television Westerns showed good guys putting down bad guys without the interference of the government.

In 1972, the Republican platform had called for gun control to restrict the sale of “cheap handguns,” but in 1975, as he geared up to challenge President Gerald R. Ford for the 1976 presidential nomination, Movement Conservative hero Ronald Reagan took a stand against gun control. In 1980, the Republican platform opposed the federal registration of firearms, and the NRA endorsed a presidential candidate—Reagan– for the first time.

When President Reagan took office, a new American era, dominated by Movement Conservatives, began. And the power of the NRA over American politics grew.

In 1981, a gunman trying to kill Reagan shot and paralyzed his press secretary, James Brady, and wounded Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy and police officer Thomas Delahanty. After the shooting, Representative Charles Schumer (D-NY) introduced legislation that became known as the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, or the Brady Bill, to require background checks before gun purchases. Reagan, who was a member of the NRA, endorsed the bill, but the NRA spent millions of dollars to defeat it.

After the Brady Bill passed in 1993, the NRA paid for lawsuits in nine states to strike it down. Although until 1959, every single legal article on the Second Amendment concluded that it was not intended to guarantee individuals the right to own a gun, in the 1970s, legal scholars funded by the NRA had begun to argue that the Second Amendment did exactly that.

In 1997, when the Brady Bill cases came before the Supreme Court as Printz v. United States, the Supreme Court declared parts of the measure unconstitutional.

Now a player in national politics, the NRA was awash in money from gun and ammunition manufacturers. By 2000, it was one of the three most powerful lobbies in Washington. It spent more than $40 million on the 2008 election. In that year, the landmark Supreme Court decision of District of Columbia v. Heller struck down gun regulations and declared that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms.

Increasingly, NRA money . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 March 2021 at 11:05 am

America’s gun problem, explained

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German Lopez has a Vox explainer about the US gun problem. It begins with a (somewhat dated) Youtube video from 5 years ago:

Lopez then dives in, and the entire article is worth reading. It begins (and it includes some good charts):

On Monday, it happened again: a mass shooting in America. This time, a gunman killed 10 people at a Boulder, Colorado, grocery store.

Already, the shootings have led to demands for action. “Now is the time!” the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence tweeted.

But if this plays out like the aftermath of past mass shootings, from Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 to Las Vegas in 2017, the chances of Congress taking major action on guns is very low.

This has become an American routine: After every mass shooting, the debate over guns and gun violence starts up once again. Maybe some bills get introduced. Critics respond with concerns that the government is trying to take away their guns. The debate stalls. So even as America continues to experience levels of gun violence unrivaled in the rest of the developed world, nothing happens — no laws are passed by Congress, nothing significant is done to try to prevent the next horror.

So why is it that for all the outrage and mourning with every mass shooting, nothing seems to change? To understand that, it’s important to grasp not just the stunning statistics about gun ownership and gun violence in the United States, but also America’s unique relationship with guns — unlike that of any other developed country — and how it plays out in our politics to ensure, seemingly against all odds, that our culture and laws continue to drive the routine gun violence that marks American life.

1) America’s gun problem is unique

No other developed country in the world has anywhere near the same rate of gun violence as America. The US has nearly six times the gun homicide rate of Canada, more than seven times the rate of Sweden, and nearly 16 times that of Germany, according to 2012 United Nations data compiled by the Guardian. (These gun deaths are a big reason America has a much higher overall homicide rate, which includes non-gun deaths, than other developed nations.)

To understand why that is, there’s another important statistic: The US has by far the highest number of privately owned guns in the world. Estimated for 2017, the number of civilian-owned firearms in the US was 120.5 guns per 100 residents, meaning there were more firearms than people. The world’s second-ranked country was Yemen, a quasi-failed state torn by civil war, where there were 52.8 guns per 100 residents, according to an analysis from the 2018 Small Arms Survey.

Another way of looking at that: Americans make up less than 5 percent of the world’s population, yet they own roughly 45 percent of all the world’s privately held firearms.

That does not, however, mean that every American adult actually owns guns. In fact, gun ownership is concentrated among a minority of the US population, as surveys from the Pew Research Center and General Social Survey suggest.

These three basic facts demonstrate America’s unique gun culture. There is a very strong correlation between gun ownership and gun violence — a relationship that researchers argue is at least partly causal. And American gun ownership is beyond anything else in the world. At the same time, these guns are concentrated among a passionate minority, who are typically the loudest critics against any form of gun control and who scare legislators into voting against such measures.

2) More guns mean more gun deaths

The research on this is overwhelmingly clear: No matter how you look at the data, more guns mean more gun deaths.

This is apparent when you look at state-by-state data for gun ownership and gun deaths (including homicides and suicides) within the United States, as this 2013 chart from Mother Jones demonstrates.

And it’s clear when you look at the data for gun ownership and gun deaths (including homicides and suicides) across developed nations. Data compiled in 2018 from GunPolicy.org shows the United States is an extreme outlier in both categories. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and the above extract does not include the (highly illuminating) charts that accompany the text. Just one of the charts is shown below.

The problem is the US Senate. The House has passed measures that would help — for example, better background check protocols — but the Senate will not act.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 March 2021 at 12:06 pm

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Man Rejected

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Jessica Valenti writes in her blog All in Her Head:

Until recently, I didn’t understand why Piers Morgan was so obsessed with Meghan Markle. I knew that the British pundit had a reputation for being bigoted and misogynist, but the particular focus on Markle—the countless nasty tweets, the repeated name-calling on television—was baffling.

But now, it all makes sense: Resurfaced videos show Morgan complaining in multiple interviews that after meeting the then-actress for a drink, she never spoke to him again. “She ghosted me!,” he told one reporter. “She cut me off,” he told another. (In one particularly pathetic interview, he sits in the same pub, at the same table, where he met Markle. “I really liked her,” he says.)

Apparently Markle’s sin of disinterest was reason enough for the television host to berate her publicly over the course of years. He’s called her “shameless,” a “social climber,” and—most recently—said he believed she was lying about being suicidal.

Hell hath no fury like a man rejected.

And while Morgan’s ire towards Markle is unique because it’s been blasted all over the world stage, you certainly don’t have to be a Duchess to suffer the anger of a jilted man.

Whether it’s the guy who follows you for ten blocks because you refuse to “smile,” the bar-dweller who calls you a bitch after you won’t give him your phone number, or the ex-boyfriend who leaves threatening voicemails post-break-up—most women have experienced the unpleasant aftermath of a man who’s been refused.

Anger from rejected men is such a regular part of women’s lives that many of us have strategies to preempt any nastiness: We invent boyfriends, wear fake engagement rings or give out fake phone numbers. We smile and act flattered, are polite when we don’t want to be, and leave relationships saying that it’s all our fault—anything to prevent a potential swell of rage.

Because we know that rejected men are dangerous men. Maybe he’ll release revenge porn after a break-up, or engage in workplace retaliation after denying unwanted advances. Or maybe the worst will happen.

Janese Talton-Jackson, mother to twin girls and a one-year old son, was out at a bar when she turned down a man for a date. He followed her outside and shot her in the chest. Twenty-year old Mollie Tibbets was jogging when a man approached her. She told him to leave her alone, and he stabbed her to death. Even the spate of misogynist mass shootings over the last few years have been perpetrated by men furious that women don’t want them.

That’s what makes rejected men so frightening; women never really know how severe their reaction will be. We do know, however, that the through-line is entitlement.

Men who won’t take ‘no’ as an understandable answer are men who believe they’re owed access to women’s bodies, time and attention.

There’s a reason that Morgan said, “I just think Meghan would be sitting there thinking, ‘I owe that guy one, I really owe that guy one.” It is incomprehensible to Morgan that Markle—who he shared one solitary drink with—owes him absolutely nothing.

It’s also why . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 March 2021 at 3:20 pm

“I Spent 25 Years Monitoring Domestic Terrorism for the U.S. Government — No One Listened”

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Daryl Johnson, one of the foremost experts on domestic extremist groups in the US who previously held a number of government positions, writes in /Newlines:

It seemed like I was the only one driving down Fourth Street, headed into the downtown area of Oklahoma City. The road led me to a vacant lot where the ruins of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building once stood. There was nothing to see, just a ruin of concrete, gravel, and dirt encompassed by a chain-link fence stretching around the entire block. At first, I thought it was a construction site. The remains of the building had already been demolished a week earlier and, to my surprise, all the rubble and debris had been cleaned up. It might have always been this way — vacant and soulless. Except everyone knew what happened on April 19, 1995.

As I exited my Honda Accord, crammed floor to ceiling with my college belongings, a slight breeze was kicking up dirt and pushing dead grass and trash across the weathered asphalt street. A large, warehouse-like building directly across from me was boarded up. I walked the sidewalk alone looking at the makeshift memorial to the victims: the 168 killed and 800 wounded by a 4,800-pound bomb hidden in a rental truck. The flowers, teddy bears, and handwritten notes were still tied to the fence, while candlelit vigils long since extinguished lay burnt on the sidewalk.

As I walked the grounds, I reflected on a few fateful moments in my young adulthood that seemed directly tied with my desire to travel on my own to the site of this deadly, American terrorist attack.

As a 17-year-old boy scout working on his Eagle rank merit badge requirements, I had to write a letter to an elected official discussing a relevant issue in my community. In October 1986, I wrote to then Sen. John Warner (R-Virginia) to warn him about the threat of domestic terrorism. I was influenced by recent events: the 1985 standoff between the FBI and an insular community of white supremacists called “The Covenant, The Sword, The Arm of the Lord”; the violent criminal activities of The Order, another white supremacist group operating in the Pacific Northwest; and the cult of Lyndon LaRouche, an extremist political figure who lived on a fortified compound in Loudon County, Virginia, near where I lived in Warrenton.

“Terrorist activity has increased in recent years,” I wrote to Warner. “With each passing week, we hear about more bombings, the hijackings of planes, the kidnappings of political figures. I, as an American citizen, begin to wonder how much longer will it take for terrorism to arrive here in the United States.”

At 19, I served as a missionary for the Mormon Church in southeastern Michigan, proselytizing in suburban and rural areas. The harsh winter climate, large swaths of wilderness, Great Lakes, industrial landscape, and cloistered demographics make Michigan inviting to survivalists, white supremacists, Black nationalists, and other extremists, a few of whom became interested in the Mormon faith. There was the homeowner who displayed an upside-down American flag and who wouldn’t shake my left hand because he believed it was “a communist handshake.” Another potential convert had a large painting of Hitler hung on the wall in her home. In time, I found the Book of Mormon had to compete with flyers from the Ku Klux Klan in the Detroit suburbs of Madison Heights, Warren, and Clawson.

So as I stood in downtown Oklahoma City, I couldn’t help but think of the Michigan background I shared with two of the perpetrators of this atrocity: Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. They were both enlisted men who were transitioning out of service — they were U.S. Army veterans who had served in the same unit during the Gulf War. Once committed to defending U.S. national security interests through their military service, they became enemies of the state, hellbent on undermining American society through an ideologically motivated act of mass violence. I’d run into guys like these before, individuals who shared their outlook, and had tried to reach them spiritually.

A few days after visiting the attack site, I arrived home in rural Virginia. My new job was as an Intelligence Research Specialist at the Army Counterintelligence Center (ACIC) at Fort Meade, Maryland, where I’d monitor threats to the U.S. military coming from within the continental United States, a program called CONUS force protection.

At the time, CONUS force protection was focused on a bygone era of far-left violence against the military in the 1970s and early 1980s by communist sympathizers and Puerto Rican nationalist groups like the FALN and Macheteros. There hadn’t been an attack by these groups on military personnel or facilities in the U.S. for over a decade. Many left-wing terrorist members were incarcerated, while a few remained fugitives, forgotten phantoms from an outdated, radical era.

And yet, the data told a different story. At the ACIC, I noticed that much of the law enforcement and open-source reporting involving threats to the military at home were linked to right-wing extremists, specifically militia members and white supremacists. Extremists had been arrested for stealing military weapons and equipment as well as plotting to attack the military, motivated by various conspiracy theories related to black government helicopters, the New World Order, and citizen detention camps, among other bogus claims. I raised the issue through my chain of command, which allowed me to begin careful, limited monitoring of these groups to assess the threat they posed to the Army. At the time, some questioned why I even bothered. By 1998, the emerging new threat to U.S. national security was Islamist extremism overseas, embodied by al Qaeda, which had begun bombing our embassies in Africa.

Yet the threat of homegrown, non-Islamist extremism persisted, as I discovered in 1999 when I joined the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. White supremacists, militia extremists, and others still violated federal firearms, arson, and explosives laws. There were intelligence threat concerns related to right-wing extremists plotting violence as the millennium approached, combined with the usual paranoid fears of Y2K and the cult hysteria about the year 2000 ushering in the end of the world. In fact, there were a couple of high-profile, ongoing criminal investigations related to militia extremists plotting attacks on critical infrastructure in California and Florida.

In 2000, I traveled to Cheyenne, Wyoming, to assist agents as they arrested two neo-Nazis for manufacturing dozens of improvised explosive devices and illegal firearms. Two years later, I helped with an investigation into a Ku Klux Klan faction in Benson, North Carolina, responsible for the murder of a fellow KKK member who they suspected of being an informant. The same faction was also being investigated for plotting to bomb a county courthouse and assassinate the local sheriff.

If monitoring domestic terrorism wasn’t a high priority before 9/11, after that event it became almost a coy relic of a distant past. Nevertheless, I continued to work for the U.S. government in the same capacity, joining an agency created expressly because of al Qaeda’s gruesome attack on U.S. soil. In 2004, I joined the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis as its only domestic terrorism analyst. Even flying solo, I found, there was plenty of work to do supporting projects related to critical infrastructure threats, developing talking points for DHS leadership, and writing strategic intelligence and policy reports. By year two, I finally had four contract analysts working alongside me, with plans in place to hire three more. I wanted this program to grow, but I also realized that I needed to be extremely judicious about the type of analysts that were hired due to the highly charged social and political issues encompassing domestic terrorism. Debates about gun rights, abortion, immigration, and taxation permeated the various far-right extremist movements. But they were also mainstays of the American conservative movement. Monitoring these issues within the right context, and with U.S. taxpayer money, was essential.

I was also caught in something halfway between boondoggle and PR exercise. My higher-ups at DHS viewed the work my team did as a tertiary responsibility and a potential political liability. Nevertheless, they also thought it gave DHS convenient political cover against any allegation of racial profiling of Muslims in the heightened post-9/11 security climate. Perhaps for that reason alone, I got what I asked for. When the contractors left, I was able to hire five staff analysts, some of whom had extensive backgrounds in monitoring and assessing domestic extremism gained from their work in civil rights organizations, other DHS agencies, as well as intelligence fusion centers. Even if this was the department’s nod to professional tokenism, it kept us vigilant against threats having nothing whatsoever to do with al Qaeda.

Less than a year after assembling this analytical team, I authored the 2009 DHS report on right-wing extremism meant for law enforcement only. It was subsequently leaked to the press and a political backlash ensued, the aftermath of which scuttled my unit’s work at DHS.

The Republican Party and conservative media were offended by the term “right-wing extremist” (a legitimate term used in the counterterrorism community and academia) and objected to a vague definition of it that they intentionally misconstrued, claiming it was an attack on conservatism, the GOP, and the newly formed Tea Party, a grassroots populist movement that coalesced in opposition to Barack Obama’s presidency and what it saw as the administration’s radical leftist agenda.

The American Legion, too, was angry that my findings raised the prospect of returning veterans becoming targets of recruitment by right-wing extremists. No one on the right wanted to hear that the U.S. threat environment was shifting from homegrown Muslim extremists aligned with al Qaeda to violent, right-wing extremists. As is customary with inconvenient intelligence, my work was politicized, and my team was dissolved.

Within a few weeks of the release of the 2009 DHS report, the first in a series of violent, right-wing terrorist attacks occurred. First, there was the killing of three police officers in Pittsburgh by a white supremacist, then the murder of an abortion doctor in Kansas. These attacks were soon followed by the fatal shootings of two sheriff’s deputies in Florida by a militia sympathizer and the fatal shooting of a guard at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. The new wave of domestic terrorism I had predicted was upon us.

Now, more than a decade on, America has  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 March 2021 at 6:50 pm

Whatever Happened to the War Against Terrorism?

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Kevin Drum has a good post:

In a post that happens to include a bit of mulling over the fate of Western civilization, Jay Nordlinger adds this aside:

(Want to know some good news? The threat of radical political Islam receded faster than many of us expected. It still lurks, of course — what doesn’t? But I well remember the concerns of the first decade of this century. Many of us were settling in for a long twilight struggle. In any event . . .)

This reminds me of something to brag about. Several years ago I predicted that the region from north Africa to the Mideast to central Asia would soon see a substantial decline as a source of terrorism. The reason was simple: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 March 2021 at 2:29 pm

Two officers who helped fight the Capitol mob died by suicide. Many more are hurting.

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I referred in the previous post to Peter Hermann’s report in the Washington Post, which begins:

Engulfed in the crush of rioters storming the Capitol, D.C. police officer Jeffrey Smith sent his wife a text that spoke to the futility and fears of his mission.

“London has fallen,” the 35-year-old tapped on his phone at 2:38 p.m. on Jan. 6, knowing his wife would understand he was referencing a movie by that name about a plan to assassinate world leaders attending a funeral in Britain.

The text confirmed the frightening images Erin Smith was watching on live stream from the couple’s home in Virginia: The Capitol had been overrun.

Six minutes after Smith sent that text, a Capitol Police officer inside the building shot and killed a woman as she climbed through a smashed window next to the House chamber.

Smith, also inside the Capitol, didn’t hear the gunshot, but he did hear the frantic “shots fired” call over his police radio. He later told Erin he panicked, afraid rioters had opened fire on police, and wondered whether he would die.

Around 5:35 p.m., Smith was still fighting to defend the building when a metal pole thrown by rioters struck his helmet and face shield. After working into the night, he visited the police medical clinic, was put on sick leave and, according to his wife, was sent home with pain medication.

In the days that followed, Erin said, her husband seemed in constant pain, unable to turn his head. He did not leave the house, even to walk their dog. He refused to talk to other people or watch television. She sometimes woke during the night to find him sitting up in bed or pacing.

“He wasn’t the same Jeff that left on the sixth. . . . I just tried to comfort him and let him know that I loved him,” she said. “I told him I’d be there if he needed anything, that no matter what we’ll get through it. I tried to do the best I could.”

Smith returned to the police clinic for a follow-up appointment Jan. 14 and was ordered back to work, a decision his wife now questions. After a sleepless night, he set off the next afternoon for an overnight shift, taking the ham-and-turkey sandwiches, trail mix and cookies Erin had packed.

On his way to the District, Smith shot himself in the head.

[How D.C. police made a stand against Capitol mob]

Police found him in his cherished Ford Mustang, which had rolled over and down an embankment along the George Washington Memorial Parkway, near a scenic overlook on the Potomac River.

He was the second police officer who had been at the riot to take his own life.

For days, Smith’s wife in Virginia and his family in Illinois grieved privately.

That changed Jan. 26, when acting D.C. police chief Robert J. Contee III testified behind closed doors to a congressional committee, telling lawmakers about the “service and sacrifices” of officers who died after having been at the siege.

Contee named three officers. One was Brian D. Sicknick, a Capitol Police officer who collapsed after engaging rioters and later died. Another was Howard Liebengood, 51, a Capitol officer who took his own life three days after the riot.

The third was Smith.

That two police officers had died by suicide after confronting rioters thrust the most private of acts into the national spotlight and made clear that the pain of Jan. 6 continued long after the day’s events had concluded, its impact reverberating through the lives removed from the Capitol grounds. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 February 2021 at 11:17 am

“I Don’t Trust the People Above Me”: Riot Squad Cops Open Up About Disastrous Response to Capitol Insurrection

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It’s worth noting that, in the aftermath of the Trump-encouraged insurrection, two Capitol police officers have committed suicide. Here’s the report on one. Joaquin Sapien and Joshua Kaplan report in ProPubllica:

The riot squad defending the embattled entrance to the west side of the U.S. Capitol was surrounded by violence. Rioters had clambered up the scaffolding by the stage erected for the inauguration of President Joseph Biden. They hurled everything they could get their hands on at the cops beneath: rebar, plywood, power tools, even cans of food they had frozen for extra damage.

In front of the cops, a mob was mounting a frontal assault. Its members hit officers with fists and baseball bats. They grabbed at weapons slung from the officers’ waists. They unleashed a barrage of M-80 firecrackers. Soaked in never-ending streams of bright orange bear spray, the officers choked on plumes of acrid smoke that singed their nostrils and obscured their vision.

One officer in the middle of the scrum, a combat veteran, thought the rioters were so vicious, so relentless, that they seemed fueled by methamphetamine. To his left, he watched a chunk of steel strike a fellow officer above the eye, setting off a geyser of blood. A pepper ball tore through the air over his shoulder and exploded against the jaw of a man in front of him. The round, filled with chemical irritant, ripped the rioter’s face open. His teeth were now visible through a hole in his cheek. Blood poured out, puddling on the pavement surrounding the building. But the man kept coming.

The combat veteran was hit with bear spray eight times. His experience overseas “was nothing like this,” he said. “Nothing at all.”

Over the last several weeks, ProPublica has interviewed 19 current and former U.S. Capitol Police officers about the assault on the Capitol. Following on the dramatic video of officers defending the building that House lawmakers showed during the first day of the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, the interviews provide the most detailed account to date of a most extraordinary battle.

The enemies on Jan. 6 were Americans: thousands of people from across the country who had descended on the Capitol, intent on stopping Congress from certifying an election they believed was stolen from Trump. They had been urged to attend by Trump himself, with extremist right-wing and militia leaders calling for violence.

Many of the officers were speaking to reporters for the first time about the day’s events, almost all anonymously for fear of retribution. That they spoke at all is an indication of the depth of their frustration over the botched response. ProPublica also obtained confidential intelligence bulletins and previously unreported planning documents.

Combined, the information makes clear how failures of leadership, communication and tactics put the lives of hundreds of officers at risk and allowed rioters to come dangerously close to realizing their threats against members of Congress.

In response to questions for this story, the Capitol Police sent a one-sentence email: “There is a multi-jurisdictional investigation underway and in order to protect that process, we are unfortunately unable to provide any comment at this time.”

The interviews also revealed officers’ concerns about disparities in the way the force prepared for Black Lives Matter demonstrations versus the pro-Trump protests on Jan. 6. Officers said the Capitol Police force usually plans intensively for protests, even if they are deemed unlikely to grow violent. Officers said they spent weeks working 12- or 16-hour days, poised to fight off a riot, after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police — even though intelligence suggested there was not much danger from protesters.

“We had intel that nothing was going to happen — literally nothing,” said one former official with direct knowledge of planning for the Black Lives Matter demonstrations. “The response was, ‘We don’t trust the intel.’”

By contrast, for much of the force, Jan. 6 began like any other day.

“We normally have pretty good information regarding where these people are and how far they are from the Capitol,” said Keith McFaden, a former Capitol Police officer and union leader who retired from the force following the riot. “We heard nothing that day.”

For the members of the riot squad who formed the first line of defense on the Capitol’s lower west terrace on Jan. 6, the lack of information could not have come with higher stakes.

Thrust into the most intense battle of the insurrection, the roughly two dozen officers bought lawmakers crucial time to scramble for safety. For about 100 heart-pounding minutes, they slipped and skidded across a stone surface slick with blood and bear spray, attempting to hold their ground against a rampaging mass of thousands.

To many of them, it felt like no one was in charge of the Capitol’s defense. All they could hear on the police radio were desperate cries for help.

At one point, the combat veteran was forced to stumble back from the line, his face so covered in bear spray he could barely see or breathe.

When he came to, a surge spilled over to his south. The crowd pushed over several bike racks. He realized the unfathomable had happened. His squad had lost the line; the mob could now enter the Capitol. There was no choice but to fall back. The officers stumbled over blood and debris until they were pressed against a limestone wall at the rear of the terrace. The mob had them cornered.

The officers, drained from their standoff, found a narrow staircase leading to an entrance of the building. But it could fit only one officer at a time. So they took turns climbing it as the crowd closed in, screaming obscenities and threatening murder.

“You fucking faggots!” one shouted. “You’re not even American!”

Waiting to climb the stairs, the combat veteran feared the worst. “This is where they’ll find my body,” he thought. . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more — and right now it looks very much as though Republicans will vote against any accountability. (Republicans claim they are the party of “personal responsibility.” They are the opposite.)

Written by LeisureGuy

12 February 2021 at 10:55 am

The next insurrection will be more practiced and effective

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People’s Rights founder Ammon Bundy (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Judd Legum and Tesnim Zekeria write in Popular Information:

The January 6 siege of the United States Capitol was not an isolated incident. It is the latest in a series of attacks by violent extremists seeking to undermine federal and state governments. Now, a new organization called “People’s Rights” seeks to bring more sophistication and efficiency to these anti-government efforts. And it is already having considerable success. 

The leader of People’s Rights, which was founded last March, is Ammon Bundy. He was the infamous “leader of the 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon — a deadly 41-day standoff between federal agents and militants who rejected the federal government’s authority over public lands across the West. ” Bundy and his heavily-armed associates seized the refuge to protest the conviction of two Oregon ranchers, Dwight and Steven Hammond, who were “sentenced to prison for setting fires on federal lands.” Bundy demanded “that the government relinquish ownership” of the refuge and “free the Hammonds.”

The standoff ended when Bundy was arrested at a traffic stop outside the refuge. Bundy was tried in October 2016 on federal weapons and conspiracy charges but, astoundingly, was acquitted by a jury. 

In 2018, Trump gave Bundy what he wanted, pardoning the Hammonds and releasing them from federal prison. “The Hammonds are devoted family men, respected contributors to their local community, and have widespread support from their neighbors, local law enforcement, and farmers and ranchers across the West,” the White House said.

Bundy’s new organization is even more ambitious. People’s Rights wants to enable people to “call a militia like they’d call an Uber and stage a protest within minutes.” Bundy claims People’s Rights has 50,000 members in 35 states. The goal, according to Bundy, is to be able to “dispatch 10 protesters to a scene in 10 minutes, 100 in 100 minutes and 1,000 in 1,000 minutes.”

Bundy did not travel to DC on January 6, but urged his followers to go. In a video posted at the end of December, Bundy said he wanted to “express his support for what is happening in Washington on January 6.” Bundy called it an “opportunity to stand for a Constitutional republic.” He also viewed it as a recruiting opportunity for People’s Rights. He told members traveling to DC to “spread the word” and download banners from the People’s Rights website to take with them. “Don’t wear a mask. Stand for freedom,” Bundy concluded. 

Jennifer Rokala, who runs the Center for Western Priorities, called Bundy’s 2016 occupation of the refuge a “dress rehearsal” for the January 6 siege. “The extremist ideologies and tactics that led to the violent occupation of public lands in Oregon are the same ideologies that President Trump has stoked among his supporters,” she said in a statement Thursday.” 

Bundy and People’s Rights have also engaged in . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 February 2021 at 3:38 pm

She Lived Through the Capitol Attack. Now This GOP Staffer Is Calling Out Her Friends’ Conspiracies.

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Cameron Joseph reports in Vice News:

As pro-Trump rioters attacked the U.S. Capitol, GOP aide Leslie Shedd helped barricade her office door with a couch and prayed she and her colleagues wouldn’t have to use the two baseball bats they’d found as makeshift weapons. 

That’s when the misinformation started pouring in.

As friends and family texted to make sure she was safe, two claimed in separate conversations that the rioters were really left-wing agitators in disguise, not the Trump supporters who’d flocked by the thousands to a rally where the president claimed the election was stolen from him. A third floated a conspiracy theory involving the Capitol Police.

“People online saying it could be antifa dressed as MAGA people,” one friend wrote, arguing it was really “BLM and antifa people” and citing a debunked story that a busload of antifascists had been spotted at the U.S. Capitol.

Shedd, the GOP’s House Foreign Affairs Committee communications director, let him have it.

“I’m locked in my office still and two bombs were blown up within two blocks of my office and like five blocks from my house, and a woman died,” she messaged him. “I really can’t go down the insane conspiracy debunking thing right now. This was MAGA people and Trump supporters 100%. That is a fact.”

Most Americans don’t have a harrowing personal tale from the day of the Capitol insurrection, but anyone with conservative friends and family on Facebook knows that Shedd’s online interactions aren’t all that unusual. One-third of Americans have seen posts on Facebook or other platforms supporting those who stormed into the Capitol, three-quarters of Republicans believe the myth that there was widespread voter fraud in the last election, and a quarter of Republicans at least partly believe in QAnon, according to recent polls. If they’re not willing to hear out a friend who actually works in the government—and personally witnessed the Capitol Hill riots—who will they listen to?

The wake-up call

Shedd used to politely change the topic when friends would float fringe right-wing conspiracy theories, and she usually ignored fringey Facebook posts from high school or college friends from back in her home state of South Carolina. But the attacks on the Capitol were a wake-up call. 

“I sat down and thought about what responsibility I have for what happened. What role did I play in January 6 happening? I always tried to be honest and forthcoming with people,” she told VICE News. “I’m a communicator. This is my job. I of all people should use my skill to figure out ways to politely push back on disinformation of any kind, even if that makes me uncomfortable or upsets people.”

Since the Capitol attack, Shedd says she’s had more than a dozen conversations with friends trying to knock down their conspiratorial beliefs. No, the election wasn’t stolen by Democrats. No, the Capitol rioters weren’t a false flag operation. No, QAnon isn’t real.

“I want to throw something out there as someone who works for the federal government and on Capitol Hill and has worked for multiple national and statewide campaigns,” she posted on Facebook on Jan. 27. “Turns out all our lives are generally boring because – spoiler alert – there is NO mass conspiracy within the government. QAnon is a cult.”

“Do you think that I am a pedophile that also eats children?” she continued. “If not, stop listening to anyone who ‘supports’ or claims to be QAnon adjacent or spreads QAnon beliefs to you.”

When some conservatives accused New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of exaggerating her own story of surviving Jan. 6, Shedd defended her:

“That’s what it felt like. People were running and making loud noises in the hallway, alarms are going off and any noise you hear is terrifying. They’ve gotten into your building,” Shedd told VICE News in defense of AOC.

Shedd was in the same building as Ocasio-Cortez on the day of the attack. She spent January 6 huddled in her Rayburn House Office Building office with her boss, Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, and a half-dozen staffers. When the building was locked down, they barricaded the main door with a couch and propped chairs against the other exterior doors.

The emergency alarm of the building entrance kept blaring, just down the hallway from their office. They heard banging. At one point, they heard a “mad rush” of yelling people run down the hall outside their office. Shedd isn’t sure if it was cops or rioters. They took in a refugee—a friend of Shedd’s who’d been trapped when the building locked down and was hiding under a set of stairs because they couldn’t get back to their office.

Before she left the office, Shedd posted on Facebook to let her friends know she was safe—and to put on notice the GOP lawmakers who were preparing to vote against certifying the election results.

“To those Members who supported this farce, I hope you seriously look at what happened today. Your words and your actions have consequences. And the violence we have seen today is what happens when people in power purposefully mislead the public,” she warned.

Shedd got home, had a large glass of wine, and passed out. It wasn’t until the next day that the emotional toll of the day hit her, when she burst into tears during a phone call with her parents.

“People who were actually in the Capitol building definitely had a much bigger threat against them and were in a worse situation,” she said. “I’m grateful I wasn’t in the Capitol building. But being locked down in our offices like that, not knowing what’s going on and not knowing what’s going on—it was very, very frightening.”

Shedd is uniquely positioned to convince some people to think harder about their views. She’s a longtime GOP staffer who voted for Trump and has worked on a conservative presidential campaign (Carly Fiorina in 2015), a major Senate race (Ohio in 2018), for a large state party (the Georgia GOP in 2014), and for three conservative Republican congressmen. If her friends aren’t going to listen to the mainstream media, at least they’ll hear her out, right?

“For some people, it probably helps to hear someone like me say these things,” she said.

Experience doesn’t count

But she’s frustrated she’s not making more progress. A lot of the conversations, she said, have been like “beating my head against a wall.” At one point she wrote a three-page email debunking a series of false claims about the election only to have her friend respond with other disinformation. Half of the conversations have been about . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

That last paragraph describes something I’ve noted is fairly common: people faced by a refutation simply ignore it and move on to make other arguments, never responding to the arguments presented to them. When that happens, communication seems impossible: such a person is set to “transmit” with “receive” being out of operation.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 February 2021 at 1:39 pm

The Boogaloo Bois Have Guns, Criminal Records and Military Training. Now They Want to Overthrow the Government.

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A.C. Thompson, ProPublica, and Lila Hassan and Karim Hajj, FRONTLINE, report in ProPublica:

Hours after the attack on the Capitol ended, a group calling itself the Last Sons of Liberty posted a brief video to Parler, the social media platform, that appeared to show members of the organization directly participating in the uprising. Footage showed someone with a shaky smartphone charging past the metal barricades surrounding the building. Other clips show rioters physically battling with baton-wielding police on the white marble steps just outside the Capitol.

Before Parler went offline — its operations halted at least temporarily when Amazon refused to continue to host the network — the Last Sons posted numerous statements indicating that group members had joined the mob that swarmed the Capitol and had no regrets about the chaos and violence that unfolded on Jan. 6. The Last Sons also did some quick math: The government had suffered only one fatality, U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, 42, who was reportedly bludgeoned in the head with a fire extinguisher. But the rioters had lost four people, including Ashli Babbitt, the 35-year-old Air Force veteran who was shot by an officer as she tried to storm the building.

In a series of posts, the Last Sons said her death should be “avenged” and appeared to call for the murder of three more cops.

The group is part of the Boogaloo movement — a decentralized, very online successor to the ­­militia movement of the ’80s and ’90s —­ whose adherents are fixated on attacking law enforcement and violently toppling the U.S. government. Researchers say the movement began coalescing online in 2019 as people — mostly young men — angry with what they perceived to be increasing government repression, found each other on Facebook groups and in private chats. In movement vernacular, Boogaloo refers to an inevitable and imminent armed revolt, and members often call themselves Boogaloo Bois, boogs or goons.

In the weeks since Jan. 6, an array of extremist groups have been named as participants in the Capitol invasion. The Proud Boys. QAnon believers. White nationalists. The Oath Keepers. But the Boogaloo Bois are notable for the depth of their commitment to the overthrow of the U.S. government and the jaw-dropping criminal histories of many members.

Mike Dunn, a 20-year-old from a small town on Virginia’s rural southern edge, is the commander of the Last Sons. “I really feel we’re looking at the possibility — stronger than any time since, say, the 1860s — of armed insurrection,” Dunn said in an interview with ProPublica and FRONTLINE a few days after the assault on the Capitol. Although Dunn didn’t directly participate, he said members of his Boogaloo faction helped fire up the crowd and “may” have penetrated the building.

“It was a chance to mess with the federal government again,” he said. “They weren’t there for MAGA. They weren’t there for Trump.”

Dunn added that he’s “willing to die in the streets” while battling law enforcement or security forces.

In its short existence, the Boogaloo movement has proven to be a magnet for current or former military service members who have used their combat skills and firearms expertise to advance the Boogaloo cause. Before becoming one of the faces of the movement, Dunn did a brief stint in the U.S. Marines, a career he says was cut short by a heart condition, and worked as a Virginia state prison guard.

Through interviews, extensive study of social media and a review of court records, some previously unreported, ProPublica and FRONTLINE identified more than 20 Boogaloo Bois or sympathizers who’ve served in the armed forces. Over the past 18 months, 13 of them have been arrested on charges ranging from the possession of illegal automatic weapons to the manufacture of explosives to murder.

Most of the individuals identified by the news organizations became involved with the movement after leaving the military. At least four are accused of committing Boogaloo-related crimes while employed by one of the military branches.

Examples of the nexus between the group and the military abound.

Last year, an FBI task force in San Francisco opened a domestic terror investigation into  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much, much more.

Later in the article:

The Marine Corps is working to root out extremists from its ranks, a spokesman said.

“Association or participation with hate or extremist groups of any kind is directly contradictory to the core values of honor, courage and commitment that we stand for as Marines and isn’t tolerated,” Capt. Joseph Butterfield said.

No reliable numbers exist about how many current or former military members are part of the movement.

However, military officials at the Pentagon told ProPublica and FRONTLINE that they have been concerned by a surge in extremist activity. “We are seeing an increase in concerning behavior,” said one official, stressing that military leaders are “very actively” responding to tips and are thoroughly investigating service members linked to anti-government groups.

Experts worry about people with military training joining extremist groups.

Boogaloo Bois with military experience are likely to share their expertise with members who’ve never served in the armed forces, building a more effective, more lethal movement. “These are folks who can bring discipline to a movement. These are folks that can bring skills to a movement,” said Jason Blazakis, director of the Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism at Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 February 2021 at 12:44 pm

‘The Capitol Insurrection Was as Christian Nationalist as It Gets.’

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Thomas Edsall writes in the NY Times:

It’s impossible to understand the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol without addressing the movement that has come to be known as Christian nationalism.

Andrew L. Whitehead and Samuel L. Perry, professors of sociology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and the University of Oklahoma, describe Christian Nationalism in their book “Taking America Back for God”:

It includes assumptions of nativism, white supremacy, patriarchy and heteronormativity, along with divine sanction for authoritarian control and militarism. It is as ethnic and political as it is religious. Understood in this light, Christian nationalism contends that America has been and should always be distinctively ‘Christian’ from top to bottom — in its self-identity, interpretations of its own history, sacred symbols, cherished values and public policies — and it aims to keep it this way.

In her recent book, “The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism,” Katherine Stewart, a frequent contributor to these pages, does not mince words:

It is a political movement, and its ultimate goal is power. It does not seek to add another voice to America’s pluralistic democracy, but to replace our foundational democratic principles and institutions with a state grounded on a particular version of Christianity, answering to what some adherents call a ‘biblical worldview’ that also happens to serve the interests of its plutocratic funders and allied political leaders.

This, Stewart writes, “is not a ‘culture war.’ It is a political war over the future of democracy.”

While much of the focus of coverage of the attack on the halls of the House and Senate was on the violence, the religious dimension went largely unnoted (although my colleagues Elizabeth Dias and Ruth Graham made the connection).

I asked Perry about the role of the religious right, and he replied by email: “The Capitol insurrection was as Christian nationalist as it gets.”

Perry elaborated:

Obviously the best evidence would be the use of sacred symbols during the insurrection such as the cross, Christian flag, Jesus saves sign, etc. But also the language of the prayers offered by the insurrectionists both outside and within the Capitol indicates the views of white Americans who obviously thought Jesus not only wanted them to violently storm the Capitol in order to take it back from the socialists, globalists, etc., but also believed God empowered their efforts, giving them victory.

Together, Perry continued, the evidence

reflects a mind-set that clearly merges national power and divine authority, believing God demands American leadership be wrested from godless usurpers and entrusted to true patriots who must be willing to shed blood (their own and others’) for God and country. Christian nationalism favors authoritarian control and what I call “good-guy violence” for the sake of maintaining a certain social order.

The conservative evangelical pastor Greg Locke, the founder of the Global Vision Bible Church in Mount Juliet, Tenn., epitomizes the mind-set Perry describes. In his Sept 2020 book, “This Means War” Locke writes, “We are one election away from losing everything we hold dear.” The battle, Locke continued, is “against everything evil and wicked in the world.” It is

a rallying of the troops of God’s holy army. This is our day. This is our time. This means something for the Kingdom. As a matter of fact, THIS MEANS WAR.

On Jan. 5, Locke tweeted:

May the fire of the Holy Spirit fall upon Washington DC today and tomorrow. May the Lamb of God be exalted. Let God arise and His enemies be brought low.

Along similar lines, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and a leading figure among conservative evangelicals, was asked in a 2018 Politico interview, “What happened to turning the other cheek?”

“You know, you only have two cheeks,” Perkins replied. “Look, Christianity is not all about being a welcome mat which people can just stomp their feet on.”

Robert Jones, the founder and C.E.O. of P.R.R.I., a nonprofit organization that conducts research on religion and politics, argues in his book “The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity,” that Christianity in America has a long history of serving as a cloak for a racist political agenda.

“The norms of white supremacy have become deeply and broadly integrated into white Christian identity, operating far below the level of consciousness,” Jones writes. “The story of just how intractably white supremacy has become embedded in the DNA of American Christianity.”

On Jan. 7, the mainstream Baptist News published comments from 21 Baptist leaders, including Steve Harmon, professor of theology at Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity:

Minister friends, we must confront directly the baseless conspiracy theories and allegations that our own church members are embracing and passing along. They are not just wrongheaded ideas; they have consequences, and to tie these falsehoods to the salvation of Jesus is nothing less than blasphemy.

Charles Kimball, a professor of religious studies at the University of Oklahoma-Norman, shares some of Jones’s concerns. In his 2002 book, “When Religion Becomes Evil,” Kimball wrote:

History clearly shows that religion has often been linked directly to the worst examples of human behavior. It is somewhat trite, but nevertheless sadly true, to say that more wars have been waged, more people killed and these days more evil perpetuated in the name of religion than by any other institutional force in human history.

In an email, Gerardo Marti, a professor of sociology at Davidson College, described a fundamental strategic shift among many on the religious right toward a more embattled, militantly conservative approach:

Today’s evangelical conservatives have given up on spiritual revival as a means of change. Even in the recent past, conversion — a change of heart and mind that is the fruit of repentance and spiritual regeneration — was thought to be the means by which America would become a morally upright nation: change enough individuals, and the change on a personal level would result in broad change on a collective level.

Marti contends that

the accumulated frustrations of not being able to ease their sense of religious decline, their continued legal struggles against abortion and gay marriage, and the overwhelming shifts in popular culture promoting much less religiously restrictive understandings of personal identity have prompted politically active religious actors to take a far more pragmatic stance.

As a result, Marti continues, revivalism has largely

been abandoned as a solution to changing society. Their goal is no longer to persuade the public of their religious and moral convictions; rather, their goal has become to authoritatively enforce behavioral guidelines through elected and nonelected officials who will shape policies and interpret laws such that they cannot be so easily altered or dismissed through the vagaries of popular elections. It is not piety but policy that matters most. The real triumph is when evangelical convictions become encoded into law.

I asked Philip Gorski, a professor of sociology at Yale and the author of the book “American Covenant: A History of Civil Religion From the Puritans to the Present,” if supporters of Christian nationalism were a dominant force in the Jan. 6 assault on Congress. He replied:

Many observers commented on the jarring mixture of Christian, nationalist and racist symbolism amongst the insurrectionists: there were Christian crosses and Jesus Saves banners, Trump flags and American flags, fascist insignia and a ‘Camp Auschwitz’ hoodie. Some saw apples and oranges. But it was really a fruit cocktail: White Christian Nationalism.

Gorski described the Christian nationalist movement as a loose confederation of people and institutions that share

a certain narrative about American history. In rough outline: America was founded as a Christian nation; the Founding Fathers were evangelical Christians; the Nation’s laws and founding documents were indirectly based on “biblical” principles, or even directly inspired by God, Himself. America’s power and prosperity are due to its piety and obedience.

The narrative is propagated through a network of channels, Gorski wrote:

The history curricula used by many Christian home-schoolers are organized around a Christian nationalist perspective. Christian Nationalist activists also seek to influence the history curricula used in public schools.

In addition, Gorski said,

Some evangelical pastors have made national reputations by preaching Christian Nationalism. Robert Jeffress of Dallas’ First Baptist Church is a well-known example. In recent years, some Christian Nationalist pastors have formed a network of so-called “Patriot Churches” as well.

It should be noted that Jeffress went out of his way on the afternoon of Jan. 6 to dissociate himself from the attack on the Capitol.

In a discussion of religion published at The Immanent Frame — a forum of the Social Science Research Council — Gorski drew a sharp distinction between Christian nationalism and traditional religion doctrine:

Christian nationalists use a language of blood and apocalypse. They talk about blood conquest, blood sacrifice, and blood belonging, and also about cosmic battles between good and evil. The blood talk comes from the Old Testament; the apocalyptic talk from the Book of Revelation.

In contrast, according to Gorski, the American version of civil religion

draws on the social justice tradition of the Hebrew prophets, on the one hand, and, on the other, the civic republican tradition that runs from Aristotle through Machiavelli to the American Founders. One of the distinctive things about this tradition in America is that it sees Christianity and democracy as potentially complementary, rather than inherently opposed.

Paul D. Miller, a professor of international affairs at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, reasons along parallel lines:

Christian nationalism is the pursuit of tribal power, not the common good; it is identity politics for right-wing (mostly white) Christians; it is the attempt to ‘own and operate the American brand,’ as someone else wrote; it is an attitude of entitlement among Christians that we have a presumptive right to define what America is. I oppose identity politics of all kinds, including the identity politics of my tribe.

Christian nationalism reveals what Benjamin Lynerd, a professor of Political Science at Christopher Newport University and the author of “Republican Theology: The Civil Religion of American Evangelicals,” calls “the tragedy of evangelical politics, a tragedy that the unrestrained loyalty to President Trump lays bare, but which stretches well beyond this moment in American history,” when “political theology serves merely as cover for the more pragmatic agenda of social empowerment.”

There is a difference, Lynerd writes,

between searching out the implications of the Christian gospel for politics and leveraging this gospel to advance the social position of American Christians. When evangelicals disguise the latter in the robes of the former, not only do they engage in dishonesty, but they also give fuel to the cynical view that there really is no difference — that the theological is nothing more than a cloak for the political.

Jones, the founder of P.R.R.I., made a related point in an email:

While many media outlets focused on decoding the myriad white supremacist signs and symbols, they too easily screened out the other most prominent displays: the numerous crosses, Bibles, and signs and flags with Christian symbols, such as the Jesus 2020 flag that was modeled on the Trump campaign flag.

Those religious symbols, Jones continued,

reveal an unsettling reality that has been with us throughout our history: The power of White supremacy in America has always been its ability to flourish within and be baptized by white Christianity.

Many of those I contacted for this column described Whitehead and Perry’s book, “Taking America Back For God,” as the most authoritative study of Christian Nationalism.

The two authors calculate that roughly 20 percent of adult Americans qualify, in Perry’s words, as “true believers in Christian nationalism.” They estimate that 36 percent of Republican voters qualify as Christian nationalists. In 2016, the turnout rate among these voters was an exceptionally high 87 percent. Whitehead wrote that “about 70 percent of those we identify as Christian nationalists are white.”

A small percentage of African-Americans qualify as Christian nationalists, but Perry pointed out that “it’s obvious Black and White Americans are thinking of something completely different when they think about the nation’s ‘Christian heritage.’ ”

To ask white Americans about restoring America’s Christian character, Perry continued,

is essentially to ask them how much they want to take the country back to the days when they (white, native-born, conservatives) were in power. To ask Black Americans about America’s Christian past is more likely to evoke thoughts of what we’ve traditionally thought of as “civil religion,” our sacred obligation to being a “just” nation, characterized by fairness, equality, and liberty.

Samuel P. Perry, a professor of communications at Baylor — and no relation to Samuel L. Perry — argued on Jan. 15 in an essay, “The Capitol siege recalls past acts of Christian nationalist violence,” that the confrontations with federal law enforcement officials at Ruby Ridge, Idaho in 1992 involving white supremacists and Waco, Texas in 1993 involving an extremist Christian sect, together marked a key turning point in uniting white militias with the hard core Christian right:

Christian fundamentalists and white supremacist militia groups both figured themselves as targeted by the government in the aftermath of the standoffs at Ruby Ridge and Waco. As scholar of religion Ann Burlein argues, “Both the Christian right and right-wing white supremacist groups aspire to overcome a culture they perceive as hostile to the white middle class, families, and heterosexuality.”

In an email, Perry followed up on this thought:

“The insurrection or assault on the Capitol involved unlikely coalitions of people in one way. You do not necessarily think of religious evangelicals and fundamentalists being in line with Three Percenters or Proud Boys,” but, he continued, the

narrative of chosenness and superiority made for broader group of support. I would not attribute Jan. 6 to Christian Nationalism alone, but I would not underestimate the involvement of the contingent of Christian Nationalists and the way the rhetoric of Christian Nationalism became a standard trope for Trump.

The emergence of Christian nationalism has in fact prompted the mobilization, in 2019, of a new group, Christians Against Christian Nationalism. The organization has lined up prominent religious leaders to serve as “endorsers,” including the Rev. Dr. Paul Baxley of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Sister Simone Campbell, the executive director of NETWORK and Tony Campolo, founder and leader of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education.

More than 16,000 ministers, pastors and parishioners have signed a statement that reads in part:

As Christians, our faith teaches us everyone is created in God’s image and commands us to love one another. As Americans, we value our system of government and the good that can be accomplished in our constitutional democracy.

In contrast,

Christian nationalism seeks to merge Christian and American identities, distorting both the Christian faith and America’s constitutional democracy. Christian nationalism demands Christianity be privileged by the State and implies that to be a good American, one must be Christian. It often overlaps with and provides cover for white supremacy and racial subjugation. We reject this damaging political ideology and invite our Christian brothers and sisters to join us in opposing this threat to our faith and to our nation.

There is evidence, Robert Jones argues, that even though both Christian nationalists and, more broadly, white evangelicals, are in decline as a share of the electorate, the two constituencies may become more, not less, assertive. Jones noted that his data suggests that the more a group believes it is under siege from the larger culture, the more activated it becomes.

Some of the clearest evidence of this phenomenon lies in the continually rising level of Election Day turnout among white evangelicals, even as they decline as a share of the electorate.

Jones wrote:

The trend among white evangelicals Protestants — declining numbers in the general population but stability in the proportion of voters in the exit polls — is basically what we found over the last decade. Compared to 2008, white evangelical Protestants have declined from 21 percent of the population to 15 percent of the population. But the “white born again or evangelical” category has remained stable over this period at approximately one quarter (25 percent) of all voters.

Even more worrisome, in Jones’s view:

It’s also worth noting that even AFTER the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, PRRI’s final favorability poll showed white evangelical Protestant’s favorability toward Trump remained at 62 percent — double the level of Trump’s favorability rating among the public (31 percent).

Unsurprisingly, the assertiveness of white evangelicals, and especially of Christian nationalists, is activating their adversaries in the traditional moderate religious mainstream. The rise of the Christian right is also feeding a tide of secularization that steadily thins the ranks of the religiously observant.

David Campbell, a political scientist at Notre Dame, further elaborates on Jones’s argument, writing in a June 2020 article, “The Perils of Politicized Religion, that

It is not just that the United States is becoming a more secular nation. It is that Americans’ secularization is, at least in part, a backlash to the employment of religion for partisan ends. The widely held perception that religion is partisan has contributed to the turn away from religious affiliation.

. . .

Continue reading. I have quoted the column liberally, since it makes liberal use of quotations.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2021 at 6:43 pm

This is How You Recover From Fascism — and America’s Not Doing Any of It

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Umair Haque writes in Medium:

Continue reading. Not an optimistic outlook.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 January 2021 at 12:37 pm

The crazy is still intense: QAnon Believes Trump Will Become President Again on March 4

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David Gilbert has a report in Vice that includes two brief videos of astounding (albeit insane) claims calmly made by two women (see earlier post on women’s roles in extremist groups). It’s definitely worth clicking the link and watching the videos just to see how weird and extreme some people have become. (And their ignorance is amazing — in the second video, the woman explains that the Bill of Rights is the first 10 (“or so” — no, it’s exactly 10) “articles of the Constitution” (no, they are the first 10 amendments to the Constitution). But it is evident that they are not only comfortable in their ignorance, they seem almost proud of it.

The report begins:

Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 19th president of the United States on March 4, 2021.

This is the latest conspiracy that QAnon followers have embraced in the wake of President Joe Biden’s inauguration last week, and extremist experts are worried that it highlights the way QAnon adherents are beginning to merge their beliefs — about the world being run by an elite cabal of cannibalistic satanist pedophiles —with even more extreme ideologies.

The latest claims being made by QAnon supporters echo those of the sovereign citizen movement, a group of people who believe they are not governed by the same laws as everyone else. That belief has led to violent confrontations with law enforcement have viewed them among the top domestic extremist threats facing the country.

“There was some crossover between QAnon and the sovereign citizen movement before, but I’ve seen sovereign citizen ideas about the United States being a ‘corporation’ become more popular within QAnon and beyond in January,” Travis View, a conspiracy theory researcher, told VICE News.

“It’s concerning because it means QAnon is borrowing ideas from more-established extremism movements.”

Sovereign citizens believe that a law enacted in 1871 secretly turned the U.S. into a corporation and did away with the American government of the founding fathers. The group also believes that President Franklin D. Roosevelt sold U.S. citizens out in 1933 when he ended the gold standard and replaced it by offering citizens as collateral to a group of shadowy foreign investors.

Sovereigns use indecipherable legal filings based on arcane texts to separate themselves from the legal entities the government has supposedly created in their name in order to sell to investors.

When that doesn’t work, followers of the sovereign citizen movement have reacted violently. In May 2010, for example, a father-son team of sovereigns murdered two police officers with an assault rifle when they were pulled over on the interstate while traveling through Arkansas.

Now, QAnon followers have latched on to the theory and adapted it to suit their needs. . .

Read the whole thing. And watch those videos. I’ve included one above (it’s at the link in the tweet).

Written by LeisureGuy

25 January 2021 at 4:11 pm

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